Liberty United: Jewelry With a Purpose

I feel as though I have been one of the biggest fashion ruts in history.  Not sure if it is due to the demands of my family (i.e. a slave to my girls' schedule), the lack of inspiring fashion this past season or simply that I am transitioning my own style... I have been feeling a bit more grown up these days.
Either way, it has been bad.  However, with summer on it's way out and a good dose of September-like weather - my creative juices seem to be flowing again.

Cut to a good friend of mine showing me a very cool bracelet that she just purchased at a trunk show last week.  It's not your typical Stella & Dot or Lia Sophia piece, it is a creative piece with meaning behind it.  So, what else would I do other than share it with you...

I could go on and on, but I am going to give you the cliff notes version.  It began with Peter Thum who founded Ethos water to help fund water sanitization programs in Africa as well as Asia and Latin America.  While working on these projects he was inspired to help reduce firearms in Africa.  This led to the creation of Fonderie 47.

Fonderie 47's mission is to turn reclaimed guns into high end art and jewelry.  Each piece contains the serial number of one of the weapons that has been destroyed.  Thum has worked with various jewelry designers and artists to create very unique and beautiful pieces with the proceeds going back to help take more assault rifles out of circulation.

The success of Fonderie 47 has led to the creation of Liberty United.  The brainchild of Peter's wife Cara, Liberty United is a jewelry company that puts the focus back on gun violence in the United States.  Committed to helping reduce gun violence on our own soil, each piece of jewelry contains the serial number of a gun that has been destroyed and taken out of circulation.  Proceeds from the sale of these pieces then go to various programs that are trying to reduce gun violence.  And, did I mention that all of these pieces are also made in the United States?!

Now for the fun part - Liberty United's first collaboration is with Philip Crangi.  He is none other than the designer behind Giles & Brother - one of my fave jewelry lines.  He has taken his signature railroad spike (a symbolization of the American spirit - to pioneer and build with courage), and made railroad spike necklaces, rings and bracelets made with bullets or gun metal.

Available in brass, steel, sterling silver or a gun metal and gold combo - these pieces are amazing.  While obviously a silver or gold bracelet is going to be quite an investment, a brass or steel bracelet is much more reasonable.  Not to mention they would look great with an arm full of Alex & Ani bracelets.

I can't wait to purchase one... or more.  Which one will look best with my rainbow loom bracelets??

                                                                                                            - Allison
*Photos courtesy of fonderie47.com and libertyunited.com.


Not Just for the Hippies...

There are two things that you may or may not know about me - I adore maxi dresses and I am always cold.  This slight obsession of mine has left me a closet full of dresses and not much else.  I still don't own the essential pair of white jeans, but I have the perfect maxi to wear to the playground, to a concert... even for an elegant evening out.

My biggest problem - what to wear on top.  Unfortunately I don't wear my maxis as much as I should because I am always cold and seriously lacking in the cute topper department.  Yes, I can wear my jean jacket.  Yes, I can wear my shrunken navy blazer or a colorful cardi.  But, I would like to step it up.  I want to give my dresses a little more style and personality.

What I have found is that it might not be as hard as I thought...

Take a peek at my new favorite ensemble...  this dress is from Zara.  I absolutely love it, but it is a wee bit sheer (hence the $90 price tag).

Zara Long Printed Dress

It's perfect for a dinner or possibly a wedding, and I have the perfect jacket...

A&F Libby Jacket

Yes, this is from Abercrombie & Fitch.  This is what happens when both your sister and sister-in-law work for the company.   I have visited the store much more often lately... Anywho, this jacket is super cute and very lightweight.

I am also newly obsessed with this jacket from Zara.  I do not own it, but I would like to...  I love the shape of the jacket and the casual feel would be perfect to dress down a more formal maxi.
Zara Studded Jacket with Pockets

I would wear it with a voluminous maxi to give it more shape - just like this dress from J.Crew.  Yards and yards of silk... the drape is amazing.

J. Crew Silk Maxidress

And speaking of structure, this coat from Club Monaco is gorgeous.  

Club Monaco Erica Jacket

I would pair this with a long slim-fitting maxi.  I love the idea of mixing this chic and sophisticated jacket with a boho tie-dye dress...

Young Fabulous & Broke Aphrodite Maxi

The only thing maxis don't go with... rain.  Too bad it is pouring today.

                                                                                                              - Allison               

*Photos courtesy of zara.com, abercrombie.com, jcrew.com, clubmonaco.com and shopbop.com.


The Multiple Personality Conundrum

As I venture further into my Style Cleanse, I have run into a bit of a hiccup.  How do you streamline your wardrobe while balancing all of your "style personalities"?

There are those of you who seem to innately know and love your style.  It is amazing how you dress to fit your personality everyday - workout clothes, casual or dressed up - it doesn't matter.  I think it is safe to say you have the Victoria Beckham thing down pat.

Then there are those of you who are like me.  During the winter I have the edgy/rock n roll/vegan leather look, the West meets Ski Country/Cowboy boots are cool look, and my sporty spice gym look.  The warmer temps seem to bring out my sophisticated country club side, preppy - like I summer at the Chatham Bars Inn look, or the always fun boho - I am leaving for a music festival tomorrow side of me.  The hardest part of balancing these personalities is trying to plan a wardrobe to meet my needs.  Trying to predict who will be emerging each morning is like asking "which way does the wind blow?"... Hence the challenging part of the Style Cleanse.

For guidance, I tend to look to one of my favorite multiple personality style icons - Carrie Bradshaw (yes, I know that she is not a real person).  When I gather some of my favorite Carrie looks, they may be a little out there, but are always grounded by mixing in an unexpected element that keeps the look from going off the deep end.  Granted, some of looks could only be pulled off on a tv show, but they are still great for inspiration.

A nod to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Note the hair and pearls mixed with a casual tank. Classic pieces, updated a bit and grounded with a casual tee and layering of necklaces.

My all time fave, the studded belt.  She can make anything look cool with this belt.  And it keeps the dress or coat from looking to prim and proper or just plain boring.

Not only is this dress amazing on it's own, the neutral studded belt and nude shoes help to bring it down a notch, and make it much more wearable.

Who doesn't want to go on a dream date in giant tulle skirt?!  I like the addition of a tailored blazer and neutral shoes to once again bring it back into the realm of wearability.

I looove this look.  I am not sure if I would ever traipse through a market in Abu Dhabi sporting a giant silk maxi skirt, but I heart it just the same.  The j'adore tee makes the look.

So, what have I learned... When suffering from multiple style personalities, it is imperative to start with the basics.  Make sure you own a fitted denim jacket, tailored blazers (black, ivory and navy are good place to start), a fab pair of dark jeans (preferably with slight flare) and a fun pair of destroyed skinnier jeans.  You must own a pair of skinny black pants as well as something in the pleather/leather family. I also recommend sailor stripes as we enter the warmer months. 

Fear not, you will not be able to acquire the basics all at once.  It definitely takes awhile.  I am still working on my list, but I try to add a piece or two each season.  I guess you could say you will have two running lists - the Basics & the Fun Stuff.

Now for the Fun Stuff.  This is where you get to add in the pieces that express your different personalities.  But, it is very easy to get off track and just start randomly buying (and this would defeat the entire purpose of the Style Cleanse). Therefore, to keep everything streamlined, you must determine a buying strategy at the beginning of each season.  

My buying strategy tends to be based on a color scheme.  I try to buy a piece for each personality that can (hopefully) coordinate with other pieces that I am purchasing.  If you can't mix & match your spoils, there is no point in making the purchase in the first place.  

To demonstrate my strategy - this is my wish list this spring...

This Cascade of Ruffles Tunic from Free People looks great with destroyed denim, but would also be so cute over a swimsuit or skinny patterned or black pants.  

Thinking it might be fun to throw this super cute J. Crew Neon Tweed Blazer over my new tunic and jeans or maybe a maxi dress...

The Aurelian Brocade Dress from Anthropologie is pretty, feminine and polished.  It would be perfect for showers, First Communions, dinners, etc.  It would also be fun to play with...

Just to be different yet still country club chic, I would love to add the Linea Pelle Allegra Colorblock Swirl Belt...

The view from behind...

This J. Crew Invitation Clutch in Cork would finish this look off quite nicely.

These J. Crew green floral pants would totes satisfy my preppy craving.  The entire look would be awesome.  But, alas, not only are the pants way too expensive, I cannot seem to find them online anymore.  

That doesn't stop me from dreaming - if I owned these pants, I would definitely pair them and everything else with these flirty flourescent yellow Kate Spade Licorice Pumps - so fun!!

Okay, so one last item.  I have to satisfy my need for an edgy/minimalist look, and I don't know what would be more perfect than a jumpsuit.  I am currently obsessed with the Emerson Thorpe Juliette Wrap Front Jumpsuit.  While I love it in blue, the khaki would look fab with the tweed blazer and Kate Spade heels

A little bit of this and a little bit of that, which will all work together and mix well with the pieces you already own.  This is the best way to keep your wardrobe streamlined and organized, while maintaining the ability to meet the needs of your various identities.  Believe me, I know.

                                             - Allison

*Photos courtesy of google.com, jcrew.com, freepeople.com, anthropologie.com, lineapelle.com, singer22.com, nordstrom.com.


How Black is Your Halo?

I think it was fate.  I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to simplify my life and wardrobe... my "style cleanse".  Then last week - lo and behold - Laurel Berman, the owner/designer of Black Halo, happened to be making an appearance at my local Neiman Marcus.  

I had to meet her, obvi.  I couldn't pass up the chance to meet the woman who created the iconic "Jackie O".  This is a dress that can instantaneously make any woman look and feel sophisticated, sexy and like she owns the world... pretty good for one dress, right?!

This is exactly the type of chic, simplified style that I have been aiming for... a perfect palette to then add the accessories and shoes to make it your own.  Most importantly it is easy.  Slip into a dress and run out the door.  There isn't much time or thought that is required - perfect.

This dress is still an investment (retailing right around $345), but it is a well-made, timeless style.  It can be worn to work, to a bridal shower, or even out with some sexy shoes, earrings and a leather jacket.  You can achieve that Victoria Beckham look without taking on a second mortgage.

The Jackie O

Easter-worthy Jackie O's (both available at Neiman's)...

Amazing dress, aside, Laurel Berman is an inspiring woman as well.  After working hard her entire life, she was able to start this L.A.-based brand where everything is designed and made in-house.  To have that much control over your business is so rare these days.  Not only does this ensure quality work, but this is what made the Jackie O possible.  

This (now famous) dress started as a high-waisted pencil skirt.  Laurel used to wear it with silky tops that always came untucked.  Out of frustration, she sewed a tank to the skirt... and voilĂ , the Jackie O was born.  This dress spent a season or two as a mixed media dress, and has since transformed into the various versions pictured above.

What I found most interesting is how she deals with what she calls being stuck in "the dress box".  While very thankful for the success of the Jackie O, it is challenging to get past that... it is what you are known for.  I likened this to my quest of finding "my look".  

She knows her customer is working woman, a mother, someone who is out and about attending meeting and events.  However, it is not just about being prim and proper.  There is a little edginess in her designs as well.  Hence, the name Black Halo.  Everyone's halo is a bit tarnished isn't it?!

As Laurel continues to design for this woman, she has begun to add colorblocked styles, peplums, fuller skirts, and evening wear.  While keeping her same aesthetic, she has begun to add additional looks that are still easy and sophisticated, but give her customers other options to express their individual style.  

After chatting with Laurel, I realized that creating "your look" can only come after you have defined your style.  Expressing your personality doesn't have to come through perfectly matching those leopard and floral prints, but from the details in a well-made dress, a perfectly chosen bracelet or an edgy pair of shoes.  Easy ways to express yourself while maintaining a chic - not overdone - style.

More food thought while trudging through the "Style Cleanse"...

                                                                                                                     - Allison                                                                                  

*Photos courtesy of neimanmarcus.com, glamour.com and shopbop.com.


The Style Cleanse

Wow, it's been a long time!  As this whirlwind we call life, seems to be picking up speed, I have been trying my darndest to streamline my day, stay focused and declutter.  The goal being to actually enjoy day to day happenings and get back to things that I love (i.e. my blog).  

Along with trying to recycle about 20 trees worth of old magazines that I was saving for one reason or another (I think we are over styles from Spring 2011, right?!), I decided that my wardrobe also needed a cleanse of sorts.  

I am not talking about your typical purge, but more of a style cleanse.  For several years now, everything has been about mixing and matching, pairing the unexpected... "J. Crewing" up your look (if you catch my drift).  Well, as fun as this creative exercise can be, it is a time zapper.  Plus, I am feeling that the norm now is to look perfectly mismatched - have you seen the obsession with outrageous street style lately??  

Yes, some people have fabulous innate style.  I do appreciate seeing this personal expression on display, and it can lead to great inspiration.  However, for most of us, trying to get this look down pat takes forever.  Who really wants to spend hours getting dressed and still look like a frazzled hobo when you were really trying for boho-chic??  

With the return of Spring, and a renewed focus on minimalism in the fashion world, this is literally the perfect time to reassess "your look".  Obviously this is a very personal process, but I would just like to give you a little food for thought to get you started on your journey.

The Style Cleanse

First - think about your life, your schedule, what types of clothing you are comfortable in, and which looks make you feel good/sexy/powerful? 

Second - Who do you look to for inspiration?  Who are your style icons?  What was it about their looks that made them so famous?
Third - Focus yourself.  Collect images of looks you like.  Write down what you want "your look" to be.  Make a list of key pieces that would make up this look.  Start shopping in your closet for ensembles that fit in you look.  

Very important - Give "your look" a test drive before taking it to the next level.  Do you like the result? Does it fit into your daily routine?  Do you feel like "you"?  If yes, then start to purge old pieces that just don't work anymore, and only purchase new pieces to fit into this new, redefined style.  If not, reassess.  Figure out what isn't working and make some changes.  No one said this was an overnight transformation.

Personally, I have been working on my cleanse for awhile now... I seem to have to many "fashion personalities".  However, after reassessing many times... I have started to refer to this process as "getting back to basics".  This has helped me focus quite a bit.

I felt as though I had gotten so caught up in trying to mix & match and be unique, that I had forgotten how fresh a crisp white button-down looks with just about anything.  Or, that a perfectly tailored dress can be quite chic... all on it's own.  Even the perfect pointy toe (paired with a skirt, pants, jeans... anything) always adds an element of sophistication.  Maybe my new motto should be to "keep it simple, clean, minimal".  Hmmm...

Some images that I have been using for inspiration...

Audrey Hepburn - clean lines, tailored, simple and classic.

Who can forget this Gap shirt & ball gown combo that Sharon Stone wore to the Oscars?  A classic, sophisticated way to play up personal style.

Victoria Beckham might just be the modern day Audrey Hepburn.  Her style is very similar to that of the beloved icon.  Although she doesn't seem to stray much from her "look".  She has created a fashion empire based on her clean, tailored aesthetic.  It's all in the details...

Who do you look to for style inspiration??

                                        - Allison

*Photos courtesy of justjared.com and google.com.